Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jam in the Dam Review

The Jam in the Dam festival can only be described in one word: Amsterdamaged (thanks Barber). Or maybe Awesomedam? Amsterdawesome? Yeah we'll stick with Amsterdamaged. The concerts were held in the "legendary" Melkweg which is Dutch for Milky Way. Useful information if you're ever on a Dutch spaceship. They claim it used to be a dairy but it was definitely a gut reno cause there weren't any cow stalls or anything, although there was a lot of grass. Apologies for rambling but...

The Melkweg is a great venue, the sound in the Max Hall is phenomenal and it has great sightlines due to it's balcony and stepped areas surrounding the floor. The bars were reasonable at 4 Euro for a sloppily poured Heineken (=$5 but includes tip). No lines at the bars- just step right up. There was a huge cafe between the two rooms that was a great place to chill between sets; they sold pastries and food plus a full bar. The bathrooms were small but clean with almost no lines each time but they had the really-popular-in-Holland cloth paper towel (yuck!). I'll shake 'em dry thank you very much. The venue was smoky (surprise surprise) but a comfortable temperature. There was no security, it was a total free-for-all, as you would expect. One great thing they do there is have people walking around picking up discarded cups and garbage during the set.

Our priority list for the Jam in the Dam was Disco Biscuits, Benevento Russo Duo, Umphrey's McGee, and then STS9. It was interesting that Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's and Sound Tribe all had their own groups of fans come over, so the crowd was very spread out and nothing was ever too crowded. The Biscuits opened the festival with a really hot set. It started off pretty high energy but really peaked towards the end with the I Remember When, Home Again, Ladies. The Home Again was exceptionally good- love that song. After 2 hours of tDB we swung over to the smaller room to catch the last hour of The Duo. At one point Marco Benevento was chanting for Brian Haas to come onstage, Joe Russo recorded that on his sampler, and then played it back mid-jam 10 minutes later when Haas actually joined them- really cool. Duo ended and we took a break in the cafe for 1 hour while STS9 played in the big room. We stayed for the first hour of Umphrey McGee's 2 hour set. The beginning of the set was typical UM- hard rocking prog rock jamming. Marco and Joe came out to join them and the jam turned more Phishyjam than Rush. After the Duo sit-in they played a bunch of slower stuff, we got bored, were tired, and left before the crowd from the just ending STS9 show filtered in. Wish I could have heard Morning Song though.

The second night opened with UM in the big room. For whatever reason we just didn't feel the energy from them. I'm not sure if it's because they always step it up when they play NYC and that's the only place I've seen them but we were not impressed by this set. At least not by the 1st hour, since we left to catch the start of the Duo's set (higher on the priority list!). This set was awesome. Their playing was very loose yet on point if that makes any sense. It was very intimate- maybe 50-100 people at the start of the set, lots of interaction with the audience between songs. Marco is hilarious- "let's play that song we wrote while we were spooning". This set had a ton of guests including Charlie Hunter and Bobby Previte. Despite what Live Music Blog says (click for video, judge for yourself), the guest segments were beyond awesome- they were amsterawesome. Yes there was a lot going on onstage but it was interesting, danceable, and fairly cohesive. After Duo's 2hr set we went over to the big room for the Disco Biscuits. The set was pretty good..the Dribble was ok, really liked the Caterpillar>Cyclone>Caterpillar. Glad they played Morph as this was the show most likely to actually have someone in attendance named Morph from Dusseldorf. We left after tDB, did not stay for the last hour of STS9's set in the other room.

The final night began with The Duo playing to a surprisingly empty big room. They played a bunch of new songs and covers and most were impressive. This set featured Aron Magner on banana and Joe Russo downing half a bottle of Maker's Mark in a 2 hour set. Excellent set.

Exhausted we rested in the cafe during the 2 hour break before tDB started. We did pop in to catch about 30 minutes of UM but again it was generic and boring and we left to get a spot in the smaller room for the Biscuits. This night was way more older style techno Biscuits than the previous 2 rock oriented nights. Spaga was great. Strawberry Girl was not as good as the NJ one but my wife was supa pumped to add in her background vocals (which the song needs badly). The highlight of the night was Story of the World->42->Story. Pure Marc Brownstein dub rock house style bootyshaking action on the bass. Super high energy, great way to end the festival.

Overall it was a great time. It was completely exhausting yet exhilarating to experience all Amsterdam has to offer during the day (museums/canals/food/other) and then dance for 4-5 hours every night and still manage to not see STS9 once. But totally worth it. Amsterdamaged.

category: music_

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NYC Subway v. London's Underground

I was in London for a few days after Jam in the Dam (review forthcoming) and went on a 2 day sightseeing binge, taking the stupendous tube back and forth across the city many times in an attempt to cram every major sight into one short trip. Our Fodders guidebook encouraged the inevitable comparison to New York's subway system by claiming that some people actually prefer London's (what?!!!). Here's how it stacks up:

Ticketing: London's system has many more options for types of tickets that seem to be a lot pricier (the poor exchange rate doesn't help) and the daily use passes varied in price from one day to the next- perhaps time based? The lack of clear pricing and the daily pass being limited to certain zones, made the whole decision process confusing. The tickets themselves are paper cards with a magnetic undersides, inferior to New York's sturdy plastic Metrocard. Go America! Ticket machines were easy to use once you decided on a ticket type but there was often a line for the few machines that took credit cards. Advantage: New York City

Entry/Exit: Most stations had turnstiles close to the bottom of the entry steps. Usually the ones on the right side in a long row were designated as exit only (indicated by a pretty clear light) and we had to walk counterintuitively to the left side to enter. The machine sucks up your ticket and spits it back out at you to hold onto. The turnstiles are only chest high and could easily have been jumped over. Unlike New York you must stick your ticket back into the turnstiles to exit (it keeps single ride cards, gives you back multiples). Despite all the ticket sucking and spitting, there were few queues to enter or exit. Advantage: Draw (the ticket to exit is annoying but not as bad as "please swipe again at this turnstile")

Stations: The Underground's stations were waaaay underground; multiple escalators or stairs needed to access most. Most had lots of intersecting passageways with twists and turns. Exits and transfers between lines were clearly marked (their signs say "way out" for exit) but involved lengthy "are we there yet- it's got to be around this corner" walks. The platforms are very clean despite selling soda and cadbury egg products on the platform and not having garbage (rubbish) cans. Line maps make it easy to figure out which direction platform you need to wait on, their trains run on the left though so I was often looking the wrong way for a train. Londoners don't look over the edge to see if trains are coming as they have signs indicating how many minutes till the next. New York's stations are much more ornate & decorated. London stations are well marked from the street but are more difficult to find due to London's lack of a grid. Advantage: Draw

Trains: The trains in London are very clean and quiet. We were on a few different types of cars. Some of them are rounded like a bullet with low headroom near the doors- I had to hunch over slightly to stand near the doors. The tube's seats are padded, armrested, and comfortable. Announcements were as clear as the NYC 4/5/6 ones but were not always made. The trains in London have room for both maps & ads running horizontally along the top, so you can see the stops from any vantage point in the train. They did not have the digital stop display like some NYC trains have. Their bars to hold onto are painted so they don't feel as greasy and disgusting as New York's. London's train doors slide open dangerously along the outside of the car- watch your fingers! Advantage: London

Service: The Underground's trains run so frequently, less than 5 minutes every time. The lines criss-cross much more than New York's giving you more options. They do not run express/local service like NYC, it's all local. The stations & trains are equally as crowded as New York's- rush hour was tight, mid-day you could get a seat. The tube does not run 24/7 which is a huge disadvantage. Advantage: Draw

It looks like we have a tie. The only way to settle this is to send me back to London for a second look; I'm setting up the PayPal donation button as we speak. Or you could convince me with a comment.
category: nyc_

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Amsterdam v. New York City

I'm back! Last week was my first time in Amsterdam and it was awesome. Spent 5 days there and got to see lots of the city. There were quite a few differences between Amsterdam and New York as you would expect:

Amsterdam has a tram system similar to New York's bus system. The trams are cheap, easy to use and come frequently. Much more pleasant than our buses and they move a lot faster. The street names are impossibly long and many sound similar but the announcements are clear and they list the next 3 stops onboard. Some stops have electronic boards saying when the next tram is coming.

English- people in Amsterdam speak better English than New Yorkers. They don't seem to pick up on "this" and "that", you sort of need to really explain what you're referring to.

Bikes in Amsterdam=no traffic. Everyone rides bicycles. There are bike lanes on virtually every road in Amsterdam and bikes chained up everywhere. Crappy old bikes. Many streets have the bike lane separated between parked cars and the sidewalk. This leads to significantly less traffic and the streets are much quieter. Also everyone drives really small cars- no SUV's. A Cooper mini would be average sized there.

Food is good in Amsterdam. There is a wide variety of reasonably priced places to eat. Not as good as New York's (but is anyplace, really?). The restaurants are all smaller and offer much smaller menus than I am used to. You really have to search out for specific places, there's no diner types that have everything. There seems to be schwarma and doner kebob stores every 10 feet. Lots of pastry shops. Lots of bad looking pizza sitting in display windows. Excellent pomme frite stands. Their wine stores also sell cheese. Restaurants seem to operate with significantly less employees than in New York, service is slower but not really that bad. Many places don't take credit cards. No water on the tables. If you ask for tap water, you will either get a bottle (and get charged) or ignored. Not as much take-out as New York. Just as many Burger King & McDonald's.

Pedestrian streets- Amsterdam has lots of shopping streets that are closed off to traffic. It seems to work well, I could picture it working in New York in Chinatown, maybe Soho. Many of the streets remind me of St Marks Place in the EV.

ATM's- Amsterdam could use more. New York can use less. Almost every one in A'dam had a huge line, frequently because machines would be out of order. The Dutch word for ATM is similar to Chipwich. Made me hungry whenever we saw one. None of the machines are in vestibules- they are all right on the sidewalk.

Late night- Amsterdam closes early. The streets are dead after 1am. It's almost eerie- no stores, no people, no cars. Just an occasional taxi or messed up tourist. Also no drugstores in Amsterdam; at least not like our ubiquitous Duane Reade or CVS's. Then again, if they had combined 2 street names into a drug store name it would look like Goudsbloemstraat Bilderijkstraat.

Beer- very good Belgium beers in bottles. Heineken is everywhere. They like to just pour it from the tap until your glass completely overspills with foam and then use the back of a knife to clear off anything over the rim. You end up with a soaking wet glass of beer that's 1/5 foam. Limited selection in many spots. Limited to Heineken or nothing. However, they also have coffeeshops that sell legal weed and stores that sell mushrooms.

Architecture- Amsterdam is filled with 17th century houses. New York is filled with 19th century buildings. The newer buildings in Amsterdam are the oldest ones in New York. Both interesting; Amsterdam seems to integrate their modern buildings in with the old a lot better. Something like that Astor Place wavy glass tower would not be built in a similar area in A'dam.

category: nyc_ food_

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jam in the Dam

I'm off to Jam in the Dam so no posts till I get back next week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

New York's Secret Places: Sniffen Court

It's time for round 3 of New York's Secret Places (#1, #2). Today we're heading to Sniffen Court, a residential enclave hidden behind a fence in the middle of a sidestreet in Manhattan's Murray Hill. The courtyard is located on 36th Street (between Lexington & 3rd Ave) and consists of 10 stables built around 1860 and converted to housing in the early 1900's. Sniffen Court is best known as the background for the album cover of the Doors' Strange Days. Here's the video- note how it's unobtrusively tucked between buildings:

There's some really good photos of Sniffen Court here (2nd-4th down).
category: nyc_

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Phish Brooklyn DVD is Coming

Someone posted some footage from the long rumored Phish DVD filmed at the Keyspan Park in Coney Island in June of '04. The Brooklyn DVD is real! The clip is The Curtain and stylistically it appears to take some cues from Bittersweet Motel (which is a good thing). Particularly the slowmo crowd running in shot. Seems like a lot more Phish fan interviews than Bittersweet and they are a lot more intelligent (looking at you dudes in the tent). There's some good footage in here, I'm very psyched for this thing to come out.

Now the only question is, when does thing thing hit the stores?
category: music_

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

American Idol Rundown

American Idol is hot hot hot this year. Here's the rundown on who's left and how bad they suck:
  • Ace Young: Blech! This guy is just a good looking Daniel Beddingfield (wait is DB good looking? no idea really). Ace's voice is ok and he can definitely move but he's dull- no personality. He does have a great falsetto though.
  • Bucky Covington: Bucky's a lovable redneck but he's not as dumb as he comes off. He's made some excellent song choices and is fun to watch even if his voice isn't all that. He sang Superstition tonight and it was pretty hot. Then again, anyone could sing it and make it hot. He's no Bo Bice.
  • Chris Daughtry: This dude is awesome! He makes insanely good song choices- best in the competition. Song choice is huge. Dead or Alive, In my Hands, Higher Ground...Chris Daughtry may take it all home this year. How could you not like those sideburns? He must be drawing some sort of vocal power from them.
  • Elliott Yamin: How is Elliott Yamin still in the competition? He lisps his way through the songs but the judges lap it up. Mediocre performances at best. Won't last much longer.
  • Katharine McPhee: Sorry but I haven't exactly caught the McPhever. After I hear Katharine sing I have a McHeadache. Wearing sexy outfits is helping her but she will not last much longer; talent stays. I don't get what the big deal is.
  • Kellie Pickler: Kellie Pickler is decent but she's really only good in that one southern rock chick etheridge style. Not enough range of styles. However she is the blondest person left in the competition and her name sounds like pickle so that should help her get votes.
  • Kevin Covais: The 11 year old stud from Long Island! The kid's got personality and a voice but looks redonculous singing love songs. He could probably rock on a Disney show or something. Kevin Covais is basically a joke but with a good voice. At some point the competition has to get serious and he's gone.
  • Lisa Tucker: This girl has an amazing stage presence. Much like Constantine last year, her musicals experience helps her immensely. She exudes confidence and has the voice to back it up. Lisa Tucker is a serious talent but her major downfall may be her relative blandness. It's not that she's bland but her voice and style just don't stand out from the pack.
  • Mandisa: Holy cow does Mandisa have a set of pipes. Mandisa (love the one word name btw) is a force in this competition. She makes really good song choices and brings major league energy to the stage. She's a virtual guarantee to be top 5. Her voice is just a powerhouse. Plus over 50% of America is overweight and all have to be pulling for a chunky Idol winner.
  • Melissa McGhee: She shows off the silicone well. Her voice is good not great but she's always smiling (and showing off the knockers). She will get the horny male vote for a while but it will eventually be outnumbered by talent votes. I'm predicting lots of appearances at Heffner's place in the near future.
  • Paris Bennett: Top 3 for sure. She's super cute and can belt out the tunes. Her speaking voice is so different from her singing voice which makes her even more interesting. She picks some good songs and is very solid.
  • Taylor Hicks: Taylor Hicks rocks. He clearly has some sort of mental/nervous/cocker/compulsive thing going on but he is always entertaining. You can tell he loves to perform and he makes excellent song choices. Top 5 easily unless he's institutionalized before then.
My prediction for the top 5: Paris Bennett, Taylor Hicks, Mandisa, Chris Daughtry, Lisa Tucker.
Top 3: Paris Bennett, Mandisa, Chris Daughtry.
Winner: Mandisa!!!

Mandisa wins American Idol. You heard it hear 1st. Finally- I'm rating the judges too:
  • Randy Jackson-You're blazing hot this year dawg! I didn't think you were going to be able to pull it off but you did. Wait check it out check it out. Your performance this year is off the charts. Dog pound?!
  • Paula Abdul- You're doing what you do best. You know who you are. And you're just great. I love you and the whole world loves you.
  • Simon Cowell- You know when your mum buys you a new pair of knickers and tries to iron out the crease but it just won't iron out? That's how I feel about you this year Simon. Just appalling. I'm shocked. It's like I'm not even watching the same show.
  • Ryan Seacrest- Total crap job this year Seacrest; without your signature "Seacrest Out" catchphrase you degrade American Idol because without it you're not a superhost but just a regular dude with professionally tweezed eyebrows and gel in his hair.
category: tv_

Monday, March 13, 2006

Burger Joint Celebrity Brick Wall of Fame

I had lunch at the awesome Burger Joint again today. I got a medium burger and I probably should have had a medium-well to get more of that char-grill flavor that I liked so much last time. It was totally empty at 11am and I noticed the signed celebrity brick wall of fame in the back. The wall has quite an impressive collection of celebs. Not sure if the picture does it justice:
Now I present the first ever semi-comprehensive list of celebrity signatures on the Burger Joint wall of fame with their quotes and my commentary; Jerry Stiller (serenity now!), Heidi Klum (2 hearts- one for her and one for the burgers), Paris Hilton (1 slutty heart), Tommy Lee (surrouded by equal signs- must have learned that in Nebraska), Ashton Kutcher ("rules" by taking up 25 bricks up top), Criss Angel (out of the photo above Ashton in an impossibly high brick- he must have levitated to get up there), New Edition, Rosanne, Oliver Platt, Tyra Banks ("i'll be back"- after I puke up this burger in the bathroom), Martin Bashir, Jasmine Guy, Rosario Dawson ("little black dress" ain't gonna fit after this meal), Christine Lahti, Talib Kweli (BK shoutout), Robyn Byrd (I think she prefers hotdogs to burgers though), Missy Elliot (obscured by fire extingisher), Howie Mandel ("2003"- no deal!), LL Cool J (this burger is going back to Cali), Firehouse (signing a band's name- what the hell?), Eriq LaSalle (gimme 2 cheeseburgers and 500cc's of Diet Coke- stat!), MC Hammer (2 legit 2 stop eating this burger), Hank Azaria (best. burger. ever.), Katie Couric, Donny Osmond "best burger in town", Kathy Griffin ("yum"), Isiah Thomas ("Knicks kick ass"- ok Isiah whatever), Jeff Probst "The tribe has spoken- best burger in nyc"- you're a geek Jeff), Jimmy Fallon ("oh god" with arrow pointing to Probst), Richard Belzar, Jon Cryer, Jon Favreau (no respect- right behind extinguisher too), Carson Kressley (this place could use new drapes), Tony Hawk ("yum!" I hearby rename the 720 ollie to the Burger Joint ollie), and of course Jack Black ("damn... that's a kick-ass burger"- this brick is just a tribute to the greatest burger in the world). Did I miss any?
category: food_ nyc_

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Buffalo Bison Chili Freedom

I'm making Buffalo-style bison chili tonight. That would be just a regular two bean bison chili with a healthy dose of Frank's Red Hot sauce aka the greatest Buffalo wing sauce know to man. A little known story is that on the 8th day, the heavens opened up and a mighty hot sauce rained down upon earth. The early humans reveled in it's subtle cayenne heat, bringing warmth to their freezing tongues. This holy recipe remained undiscovered for thousands of years until a few drops were found encased in amber underneath the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY in 1964 and quickly the Buffalo Wing was created. Today we can enjoy this pepper miracle in our own homes.

Back to the bison chili; I find it very strange that just a few years ago the bison was nearly extinct and today it's readily available in the local supermarket. What's next- bald eagle nuggets? Is this why we brought this animal back? So we can have a lean protein filled delicious meat source? Buffalos have rights too! I probably don't have to worry too much about eating bison because my 100% ground bison "contains no animal byproducts". I thought ground bison pretty much would be the exact definition of animal byproducts.
If it's not animal, then what is it? Nobody can know for sure, but I do know that the bison represents freedom and the American dream. And freedom tastes pretty freakin good with some beans and the greatest Buffalo wing sauce known to man.
category: food_

Friday, March 10, 2006

Funky Photo Friday

Why isn't it Friday today? Oh wait it is. That means it's time for Funky Photo Friday. First up is the awesome tiger curtain on 85th Street- I like how it's perfectly centered in the window:
The next picture is an empty N-train coming back from Astoria. It was freezing that night so everyone was in the middle cars, which line up closer to the stairwells in the stations where they were avoiding the cold. It only took me 3 or 4 stops to figure out the trick to getting a clear shot- wait until the train stops! The N train is one of the worst in the city- they take forever to show up and then just meander on slowly as if in no rush.
Some Fresh Direct fruit arranging? I minored in fruit arrangement in college with a certificate in vegetable stacking. My thesis was actually called "The Bulbous Butternut Squash Dilemma; The Gourd That Just Won't Fit". Made some awesome tostones last night with the smaller plantain. Basically just cut it into 1 inch chunks, fried them briefly and then my favorite part-smashing them with a mallet and a spatula until they are flattened latke style, finishing off with a brief refry to make them crispy. Seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
This next shot is entitled "Break Down the Core Reactor".
Have a great Friday everyone.
category: nyc_ life_

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Project Runway Loses All Credibility

Project Runway..arrrgh. First Austin Scarlett now Santino. How that no talent derivative hack Chloe Dao wins Project Runway 2 with her poofyass shimmering chiffonightmare John Hughes movie 1985 prom dresses is beyond my scope of understanding. Santino shows up with a gorgeous line of modern wearable dresses for Olympus Fashion Week and he comes in 3rd. Clearly Santino's work was far superior to the other 2 and he should have been declared the winner. Daniel V's line was simple and tailored nicely, but perhaps a bit understated; even that was better than Chloe's.

Chloe is a businesswoman- she said that herself. She's a damn good one because she sold the panel of judges on her little tagline that she knows what fits a woman. Your dresses may fit well Chloe but nobody wants to wear something that looks like it came from the back of Debbie Gibson's closet circa Out of the Blue but with just a smidgen more poofiness added. What was up with the matching separate jacket with only sleeves dealie (that's a technical fashion term I learned 3rd year at FIT) on every other dress? The model "competition" is stupid, it's more of a lottery, and Chloe's winning model looks like Big Bird.

Bravo could have had anyone be the guest judge but they completely blew it with Debra Messing. Sorry but just being on a show with gay guys does not qualify you to be a judge in the final round of a fashion competition. Why wasn't the judge someone even remotely related to the industry? The finale is not the time to be doing NBC cross promotional stunts when it alters the course of the show so directly. If I see a Project Chloe special coming out, I'm gonna puke in my mouth.
category: tv_

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Green Apple Festival- The Scoop

Ask and ye shall receive! The Green Apple Festival lineup has been announced. Here's the music list. Looks ok, doesn't really stand out as spectacular. I may go see Bela Fleck at either BB Kings or Irving Plaza in addition to Deep Banana Blackout on the boat. The Jammy awards lineup is up too on the Green Apple Festival page- or check out the Jammy's page. I'm not a huge fan of the Jammy awards- they are cool in concept- mixing bands of different genres onstage together but in practice it's not good. There was waaaaaay too much downtime inbetween bands at the one I went to (Roseland). The festival also features a short films screening, Earth Day exhibit at Grand Central, and some concerts for kids. Ambitious but spread too thin? I wonder who "Very Special Artist" at Bowery Ballroom is on Sat/Sun?
category: music_ nyc_

Green Apple Festival- What's Going On?

What's going on with the Green Apple Festival? It's been in the planning stages since at least last August and yet no official announcement on other than a general description. The site had a list of bands up for like 2 hours one day and then quickly took it down- but not before SlackLaLane snagged the screenshot. Live Music Blog is also baffled.

Pollstar and jambase have a lot of listings for that weekend but only a few are specifically designated as Green Apple Festival (although quite a few obviously are based on the genre). Pollstar has a long list of performers for the Jammy Awards which kicks off the festival at the MSG theater. A lot of the shows are already on sale and still no official announcement: Toots/Soulive are on sale at Ticketbastard and Musictoday has the otherwise unannounced The Slip show at Coda. The Rocksoff site has a bunch of shows announced as part of Green Apple Festival and on sale already. In fact, the Umphrey's McGee show at CBGB's is already sold out!

I'm waiting, like I'm sure a lot of others are, until a full announcement before I buy tickets. I don't want to get tickets for something only for them to announce something better at the same time. This thing is only 6 weeks away; why no announcement yet? Rumors at PT are circulating that it's due to them having difficulty finding earth-friendly sponsors to go with the Earth Day theme of the festival.

Only one thing's a definite yes for me. Short of any Phish reunion, I've got my tickets and I'll be going on the afternoon Deep Banana Blackout boat cruise. I'd highly recommend any Rocksoff boat cruise, they are a ton of fun and the views are great. Plus DBB's got Jen back. I'm super psyched for that. The Rocksoff site says they have 3 boats this year! I hope that's true and not a typo, the addition of the big loveboat style westside boat was great and I'm sure any new boat would be just as good.
category: music_ nyc_

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

BJ and Tyler all the way!

Tuesday nights mean Amazing Race; CBS is pretty ballsy putting it on at 10p this year. As I previously fluffed, Tyler Averell and BJ MacNiven are the clear favorites and on tonight's episode they proved me right by dominating their way to a first place finish. With their joyful resourceful noncombative ways, Tyler and BJ embody the true spirit of the Amazing Race.

The hippie skills came in to play as they were driving a VW bug with no reverse gear around Brazil (hippies are born with superior Volkswagen driving skills that the common man can not comprehend; similar to the Kenyans and long distance running). Clearly students of the game, the hippies read the clues and digested them in their entirety before running off, unlike the 4 teams to use the first stairwell who had to wait at the top to rappel down- no line at stairwell #3 bitches. It's interesting that they chose BJ for the stair climbing since it was Tyler who walked the 2000 mile length of Japan not long ago.

Regarding Tyler walking Japan- this week I had a chance to view his documentary Kintaro Walks Japan via google video here. The documentary is set against the backdrop of Tyler (Kintaro- after a Japanese legend) attempting to woo the daughter of a man who walked the entire length of North America while searching for his own father's birthplace based only upon an old family sketch of a shoreline rock formation and fulfilling the destiny of the legend he was named after. Along the way he meets many great characters and learns about Japanese culture firsthand.
Overall it was pretty good, I was entertained enough to watch the whole thing streaming with only a few breaks. However, I wish Tyler's voiceover narrative tone was a bit less goofy, it sounded almost dumbed down at times or as if it were made for kids. The scenery and stories were both excellent. Kintaro Walks Japan is very lighthearted and feel-good, at times uplifting. A true voyage of discovery. On the J$ scale it gets a $$$$$$$ (7/10).

For those without 67 minutes to spare or steel eyeballs to watch the whole streaming video, check out Tyler's slightly more palatable music video which looks like the Devo video meets Come On Eileen meets William Hung. Tyler wanders convenience stores and villages prancing around while wielding a huge ax dressed like backyard wrestler in a red woman's backless shirt and tight red 1992 shorts, dancing like he's a mentally retarded chimpanzee on top of bales of hay set to music that sounds like Yoko on crack. In other words, totally awesome.
category: tv_

Monday, March 06, 2006

Edgar Stiles- Dead Meat

Everyone's favorite lisping IT professional computer geek Edgar Stiles was killed off in tonight's 24. Chloe's pouting finally looked appropriate! I'm sorry you guys never hooked up. Everyone felt bad for you when your mom was hit by the nuclear bomb. Why were you so slow in getting out of the building Edgar? You were the last one dude.

Besides, the announcement said to evacuate the building Edgar, not head back towards your desk to see if everyone else was leaving. Of course it wouldn't have been typical dramatic 24 if you died in some stairwell alone. Doesn't CTU have a gym? Some sort of minimal fitness level? You knew those donuts would catch up to you eventually, as the Edgar Stiles song parody goes (to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama):
Fat fingers keep on typing
Trying to hack the back way in
Thinking thoughts about my donuts
I miss my Crispy Creme once again
And I think its a sin

Jack Bauer must avenge Edgar's death bigtime- his killcount is very low this season according to the Bauercount (just 15 kills with 12 episodes to go vs. last year's 44 total). With Edgar gone, there's no way Fox can let the show can go on without a significant addition. Kim Bauer is not strong enough to cut it. They've got to take 24 to the next level. They need the serious roundhouse kickpower that only the combined forces of Jack Bauer and Chuck Norris can provide:

Speaking of dead meat...not too much longer until NYC's best hamburger is back. It's the Shake Shack countdown!

Get in line now! Or as we say in New York- get ON line now. It's what Edgar Stiles would have wanted (seriously- he would have wanted a triple shackburger, 2 orders of cheese fries, a taxi dog, a Chicago dog, a shack attack frozen custard and a large diet Coke).
category: tv_ food_

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Best Video Ever. Simpsons Live.

Check out this video of The Simpsons opening sequence replicated with real live people almost to perfection. Wow. I am officially blown away.
Speaking of The seems like the more recent episodes are way less topical or political than in the past. The show is a bit more generic. They seem to be lacking those subtle barbs of years past (is subtle barbs some awkward wording or what?). It's still funny but not to it's former watercooler levels. When's the last time you heard someone asking if you saw last night's Simpsons? 2002? Monorail!
category: tv_

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lawyer Breakin' the Law

Check out the John C. Dearie law tank breaking the law- again. Not only is his mobile law office parked in front of a hydrant, it's also parked so far away from the curb that it's impeding onto the bike lane on 1st Avenue. That's a violation of NYC DOT codes A40, A48, and possibly A45 (parking more than 8ft from a curb), normally subject to $115 fine for each.
This may be one scary looking lawyermobile but it's SWAT-like exterior hides a richly appointed interior with "mahogany molding and doors, carpeting, wallpaper, glass and brass fixtures and comfortable leather chairs". You had me at mahogany, Dearie. Thanks for bringing your law services right to the people that need it most, the latte sipping huddled masses of the impoverished Upper East Side.

Take a look at blogging MD Dr. Rangel and going off on the mobile law monstrosity's initial lawbreaking indiscretion. This article provides some more background on both Dearie, his tanks, and his weaksauce defense against the ambulance chaser allegations. In related news- Bob Loblaw lobs law bomb on the Bob Loblaw law blog.
category: nyc_

Friday, March 03, 2006

New York's Secret Places: Freeman Alley

Time for another of New York's Secret Places. Freeman Alley is nestled in the corner of western Rivington Street. It was virtually unknown until a few years ago when the restaurant at it's back end became a hotspot and then allegedly refused entry to the Bush twins (the true American everyday hero maitre'd told them to come back in 4 years). The alley felt desolate even during the daytime. It's easy to miss or mistake for a driveway. I felt like I was somewhere I shouldn't have been and quickly left. There were 2 cars blocking the entrance to the restaurant. Here's the video:

A little bit more info including a map is at forgotten-ny and a sweet picture from a few weeks ago is here.
category: nyc_

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's the Deal with Deal or No Deal?

Deal or No Deal has got to be the stupidest game show ever, yet I'm strangely addicted to it. The main problem with the show is that is so simplistic that it's almost like a solitare game you'd play on your cellphone. The other big issue with Deal or No Deal is that it moves soooo slowly. An entire round of DoND should take maybe 15 minutes but NBC draws it out with reaction shots and dramatic explanations and chatter from affable soul-patched host Howie Mandel. Just pick up the freakin phone already Howie.

Monday's episode featured special guest financial advisor Donald Trump who appeared to be annoyed at the contestant's overenthusiam upon his surprise arrival. The contestant seemed more interested in Trump than he did the $1 million. This was clearly a cross promotional gimmick for Trump's latest Apprentice show (it's gonna be huge) which was premiering after DoND but oddly The Donald did not plug his show.

I will give the show credit for it's gratuitous shots of models in skimpy dresses. Lots of them! I like how some of them peek into the briefcase to see what the dollar amount is so that they can preload their reaction shot face as they reveal it to the audience. In the British version they use regular old ugly people and shoeboxes (for real!).

Despite it's problems, I can't stop watching the show. Probably due to it's high yelling at the screen factor. Or maybe it's the models. Or the soul patch. Here's a clip from an episode earlier this week- you decide:

category: tv_

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

York Avenue Weirdness

The blocks between York Avenue and the FDR on the Upper East Side in the 70's have all sorts of quirky bizarre weirdness going on. Each street either dead-ends at the FDR or leads to an onramp for the highway. The quiet streets have an unusual (for the UES) mix of residential, garages & auto shops, schools, industrial, and a huge Dept. of Sanitation complex. There are virtually no commercial businesses except for one seemingly misplaced upscale furniture store.

Here on 72nd Street, which has a really nice little park/sitting area at it's eastern end, is a man in a glass booth (which is also the name of an excellent movie). The booth is at the entrance to a driveway of a highrise luxury building and also a parking garage. I have no idea what he was doing as several cars and pedestrians went right by him without pause. He looks like a museum exhibit-"On our left is a doorman in vintage 2006 uniform in the one eye open standing sleep position. Please don't tap on the glass and disturb his natural state."

I don't think there is another building like this in Manhattan- a building that juts out over the sidewalk almost flush with the street. Isn't there some sort of code against this?

Apparently in East Yorkville (EYo? EYoVi? YoVilE? YoE?) there are no parking laws either; check out this DSNY vehicle completely blocking the sidewalk. Somebody write this car a ticket!

It's not just the cars that park all over the sidewalk; how about some abandoned strollers looking like the eerie aftermath of some Wes Craven film:

Look at this Police phone sign that time seems to have forgotten (there didn't seem to be a phone on or near the pole). I can't recall having seen a sign like this elsewhere (forgotten-ny?). I think they need maybe one or two more signs on this pole.category: nyc_